The music fades. The sweet aroma hangs in the air, lingering as an aftertaste. We sit on the roof, our legs dangling over the side, and watch the people pass us by beneath the pink and purple of the falling sun. Another day is sweeping us by, but that does not matter. I am in no hurry, although my weary heart is not as strong as it used to be. For a split second I worry I will not get to finish what I set out to do. There is nothing worse then ending a story when it is not done.
They pick at the flimsy tile, scraping a fleck of what seems like sandpaper off the rustic bar. We are technically not supposed to be up here, but the patron no longer cares. He is here to serve the people, to listen to their heart beats and provide what they can so long as it is within reason. The old man with the carving back had smiled when I told him we wanted the best spot and the best view to listen to the music. ” The only way to hear pure sound is to listen to it purely, without the distractions that take you away from what is meaningful.” He had showed us up here himself.
“What are you thinking?” I surprise myself asking this, because I should know what I am thinking. Yet the gulf between us is years apart, and I am looking at myself as I used to be, not who I am now. I am surprised again to see the difference between two minds that are otherwise the same. You are still whole, I think mournfully, for I realize now I never mourned for the person who became lost and shattered, never to be found the same way again. I could argue it was for the best, but I can’t be so certain. If I was, I never would I sent that ad out in the first place. “Are you still mad at me?”
“No. I don’t know. You seem to be so wishy washy on everything and won’t give me a straight answer,” they sigh, ” Maybe its time for me to leave. I don’t think it was worth taking the trip out of my timeline.”
I say nothing. They continue. “Does it ever get better?”
“I know you get stronger. And braver. Although there are some missteps taken, and those missteps take you back, but there are also lovely surprises, dreams you couldn’t imagine fulfilling coming true, even if they are only small dreams compared to the big ones yet to happen. Let me tell you about the time I journeyed to England for my third time.”
For some time, Ms. Couture wanted us to come visit her in her elegant yet cozy home right on the Thames river. A beautiful spot, and from the balcony I could see the boats run up and down the twinkling water. She was supposed to come with me, but as usual she came up with another excuse why she couldn’t go. It was fine by me, because I didn’t want to drag her along to the Harry Potter studio I’d been eager to see. “I know the author is a hypocrite now, her words hollow and empty shells cast from narrow-minded beliefs, yet it was on my bucket list, or my No Regret lists. Did I really want to allow a dream to pass by silently because I couldn’t muster the courage? Let me tell you, don’t linger inside a cave wishing you were out swimming in the cool water. The sharks won’t come for you if you know where to swim.”
“Does she really become awful?” they ask in surprise.
“Unfortunately, yes. Idols are hard to worship because once they fall, you see there was nothing holding them up in the first place.”
I say this, but like J.K Rowling I do not believe them. The disappointment snuck in like a mouse, sneaking across the floor and burrowing inside the cabinet where it could nibble away at the delicious snacks.
The little girl sat Waiting For hands to pick her up And cradle her in arms Warm And whispering how it Will be okay The bruises will fade The cuts will stop Bleeding The little girl sat Waiting For a voice to call her name Honeyed and sweet Instead of poisonous As she has so often received Instead The young woman sat Waiting In a gown white like Powder And too tight for wandering Eyes to see Through The young woman sat In a house bluer than the Sea As she moves the pieces And smiles At a face she has been Waiting Waiting Waiting To stay by her side as she finally Cries The older woman sat Her back turned and No longer Waiting Waiting Waiting For that face to return As it once was Standing by her side In a dream so long Ago Where the arms held her Warm And her voice was honeyed and Sweet And she listened to her cry Over bruises that would Fade And cuts that would stop Bleeding Because it would never happen A mother who stood too Far To ever be close enough to Wait
“It’s funny how much we remember the bad things about people and not the good. Yet with certain people we forget about the bad things and cling onto the one good thing that made all the difference. That one good thing carries us through, when in reality it shouldn’t be enough. Still, it is, and the toxic fumes become increasingly difficult to purge,” I muse as below us a man screams at a woman. The woman, for her part, slaps him across the face, then turns and leaves. He considers chasing her to her car, parked only a block from here, but realizes it would be a mistake, if only because there was still enough light and still enough people crowded about.
“People aren’t perfect, though, right?” they follow my stare, looking down at the man and his balding head.
“No, they aren’t. But there comes a point where you need to know if the flaws are acceptable to live with or just too damaging to handle at all.”
I came to England with a plan, but like most of my plans they quickly derailed, and not necessarily for the worse. I wasn’t expecting to stay with Ms. Couture, but I was glad I did. She showed me around graciously, offering a house and free meals, and I came to sincerely appreciate such a warm hospitality from a high class woman. I made a note to watch myself: just as the rich can be snobby to the lower classes, so can the lower classes be snobby to the rich. The rain made it difficult to traverse, yet the unexpected last minute babysitting of her three grandchildren made the day a worthwhile adventure. Their energy was boundless, although eventually they grew bored and tired with the history museum so we resorted to lunch and ice cream, two things children love.
After we eat, we take a moment to dance in the rain, our innocence unloaded and untasked with responsibilities. They were a good reminder that as we grow older we cannot forget to lose ourselves in meaningless frivolities that aren’t actually so meaningless. Because in truth its helps us live, returning to a untroubled youth that many of us experience too briefly or take for granted for what it is worth. There is a tendency to hang onto the bad in the right people and onto the good in the wrong people, but what about hanging onto the good in the right people, or even the good in ourselves? A simple moment carries so much, and yet in that moment I carried with me a simple good that would release me from my self made prison.
The day eventually ended and the children were returned to there loving parents, distant relatives who, after a delightful home cooked meal, I would like to one day see more of. But perhaps it was for the best that I didn’t, for a simple good could be soured by the bad that I would most likely, despite my efforts otherwise, hang on to. Some moments should be just that, a moment frozen and captured, placed inside an untainted frame and placed on an untainted wall.
” The next day I was finally able to continue with my plans, this time to Oxford.”
I hear a soft groan. ” I hope there wasn’t a bus involved.”
I laugh. ” Oh yes, there was. A tour bus, in fact, which suffered no problems. Unfortunately I had to take it in order to get into the Harry Potter studios. Remember: the most popular attractions always require advanced bookings. So from here on out, try not to visit popular attractions. Its the unpopular ones that hold the real magic anyway.”
It was worth the trip to Oxford, a small city which was gorgeous in its historical architect. Yet I felt so small, so little, because I knew it was a vastly knowledgeable city, its University full of the highly intellect, and I knew I was not all that capable of being too smart. ” Or perhaps, and here is an encouraging thought dawning on me after years of self doubt, I was just smarter in the untraditional way.”
I sat in a coffee shop, sipping on a drink I can no longer taste, food I can no longer remember, too busy staring at the bright sun illuminating the street in lively colors and trying to hang on to the bits of information read to me over an intercom. But it was useless; my excitement to see the place which conjured a childhood of vivacious imagination was all I could think about.
“But didn’t you just say the author who created that world turned out to be a colossal disappointment?” they ask.
“Yes. But I cannot allow that to dampen my dreams, my imagination, because without dreams, no matter how little they are, and without some kind of imagination, again no matter how small, the world is dull and grey and not much exciting.”
I explored the exhibit with hungry eyes, absorbing each detail fervently. I turned around, expecting to show someone how they used automatons to move the snakes head, but there was no one there, no one I brought along to share the experience, to share a butterbeer with and compare the sweet, sticky taste to other sodas. There was no one there. The sadness struck the lonely spot which dug itself a hole in my core, and I lamented that it could not be filled. The memories I have with be stored in its own, private box, waiting for me to open it again, each picture given its own meaning and understanding to me and me alone. “Showing pictures is just not the same as sharing an experience,” I explain as a bird dropping lands on the balding man below us. Karma.
Soon I would be off to Manchester, where the experience would be shared in part by James Blond. This time I take a train, my eyes glued outside to the changing landscape. There was something nice about being on a train, and I cannot find the words to describe the feeling faithfully. Perhaps in this case there were no words, the words being as useful as a candlestick in the pouring rain. Upon my arrival, I was once again delighted to see a person I consider to be one of my favorite human beings on the planet. But that delight would take an unexpected blow, a blow so hard I questioned whether it damaged all that was good. A blow I would hang onto because in the aftermath the wounds did not heal properly.
Beyond the shadows Three doors sat One in gold and carved With angels and beasts Bowing and snarling One splattered red And rustic with Holes dismantling the Old beauty it once had And one plain and simple With nothing to make it Stand apart from those Who tease and beg For me to chose them. Beyond the shadows I reach for a door One in gold and carved With angels and beasts Bowing and snarling And I open it And I shut it behind Wondering as my eyes Adjust to the dark If I should have picked The one plain and simple With nothing to make it Stand apart Because I already knew What stood behind it. Beyond the shadows I walk inside a cave Dripping with crystals Of blue and green Purple and pink A beauty I have never before Seen And yet I hear the growls Of danger Warning me to flee Back to where I was Before Without life Without love Without the beauty of a New and better World.
I always thought that Neville Longbottom should have earned more points than he did. It is easy to face a dragon, to play giant chess and guess which poison is in the bottle. It is easy to fly and fetch a key, to take down a troll, and to get out of smothering plants. Because the danger is immediate, and there is no choice but to do or don’t, die or live. The fight is so simple because there is no question. But standing up to friends is so much harder, which often can result in saying nothing and suffering the consequences. There is a fear not to destroy something so precious, so we must do what we can to avoid the destruction even if doing so causes more harm than good.
We were at the park, James Blond and I, a beautiful, spacious park with various swing sets in the corner. We meant to read and relax, but the conversation turned elsewhere, and I thought it was safe to say what I did.
“Even now, I have this sense of protection because I don’t want to damage the good. The word ‘unnatural’ hangs over me, and because of it I have drawn some lines that I am careful to not go over. Because I want to hang onto the good, even if its not so good. So there are some things I am careful to say, even though I should say them.”
“Why did you hang on? Why didn’t you say the things you should have said?”
“Because eventually they changed their tune. I just had to wait long enough to see it happen. One day, someone will tell you that you are ahead of everybody else. And that you just need to wait for them to catch up.”
I did make an attempt to have a conversation, but it was not the one it should have been and it was filled with silence. Sometimes people are better with action than words, and that is just as important. I blamed myself, though, and I struggled with my thoughts and walked away, finding the swing sets and performing all sorts of acrobatics-to the point a child and parent duo thought I belonged in the Olympics- in order to quell the pain and sadness stirring inside. I locked it down, not wanting to spoil the trip. But it followed me for the rest of the day, and eventually, while visiting a native, I snuck upstairs into the bathroom and allowed myself two minutes to let it all out. It didn’t help that previously that I saw a naked child running hilariously around the room, but it was followed by a seemingly innocuous comment: “Can’t wait to play this at your wedding one day. He is going to be a ladies man( something to that effect).” It was a reminder of how different I truly was. The danger with heteronormativity is that I don’t fit into the binary norms, therefore I am deemed broken and defective.
I am dropped off at the train with all smiles. They say fake it until you make it, although no amount of smiling can take away untreated pain that runs deep into your roots. As James Blond leaves, giving me the warmest hug in the world, I am approach by a young man. He offered to write me a poem, asking not for much, and ordinarily I would not be interested, but the words of a stranger did something to improve my mood. It was a sweet poem, one worth at least a couple of coins, and I still have it with me somewhere.
” Like I said, you need to know when to hang onto the good and let go of the bad. What flaws are worth dealing with, and what forces you to let go. Like Neville Longbottom, it isn’t an easy decision, but the decision made is worth all the house points in the world. I did not let James Blond go, nor did I let that poem go. Because we need reminders of the good to get us through whatever is our darkest time.”
I return to London, my heart in disarray. My plans were given unexpected wrenches, but all was not lost, at least not figuratively. I did end of losing a wonderful art project I spent three hours learning and doing, although it did not erase the experience or the healing. I decided to take a chance and learn how to create 3-D art from a lovely and talented woman eager to share her knowledge, which I managed to take home with me, even if my shoddy artwork wasn’t.
“I said this before, and I’ll say it again. Wherever you go, try to do one new activity that is exciting or interesting. For one, it helps soothe whatever pain you might be carrying. And art in whatever form it takes- because knowledge is art- can help in more ways than one. It can also open your mind to new skills you didn’t think you had, or new passions you never though to explore.”
“So,” they say as they watch a car roll up and park in front of the bar whose roof we still linger on. The car empties out men and woman tall and short, blonde and brunette, and a variety of instruments. ” Do you think I should try to learn to play the ukulele? Become a backup singer?”
“Ummm…” How was I to tell myself that I do not have an ounce of musical talent in my bones? I would be crushing a hope, a dream, and I just spent several hours encouraging it. I can’t be a hypocrite now, can I?
“Sure. Go ahead. Do whatever your heart tells you to do. Unless its murder. I draw the line at that.”